summer

Back to School

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And just like that, summer is drawing to a close.  School is right around the corner, and we’re here to give you some tips and tricks to get the kids (and yourselves) ready!

Supplies 

Now is a great time to start gathering school supplies if you haven’t already started.  Take into consideration your child’s age and what they will really need for school.  Most Montessori classrooms utilize community supplies that are shared, but many teachers have a wish list or requested supply list for parents. Be sure to check the letter you received from your child’s teacher over the summer.

As children get older, they may need more traditional school supplies.  Again, we recommend checking with your child’s teacher, but it’s helpful to have pencils, crayons, scissors, and paper on hand at home for projects.  Older children may need notebooks and more specialized supplies.

Bedtimes

Long summer days and less pressure to wake up early often leads to later bedtimes for children.  While this is great for family fun, it’s helpful to reassess your child’s sleep needs before school starts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx

To make sure your child is sleep-ready for school, consider what time they will need to go to bed on an ideal school night, then start slowly inching bedtime back each day from now until the start of school. 

Routines

Children thrive with routine.  While it’s not always possible during summertime, it’s super important to reestablish routines when getting ready to head back to school.

Bedtime isn’t just about sleep, but also the hour or so leading up to it.  Create predictable steps and order so that your child can focus on rest and not anticipation of what’s next.  You may want to begin bedtime with a warm bath, followed by putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading a story in bed.  

Morning routines are helpful, too.  What do you expect your child to do independently, and what will they need help with?  Again, try to keep the same order and timing each day so everything runs smoothly.  Children who need reminders (read: most kids) often find it helpful to have a visual reminder.  Post a note in your child’s bedroom or the bathroom listing the order of what needs to be done.  For children who aren’t reading yet, a picture list can be made.

Lunches

Will you need to make lunches for your child when they head off to school?  If so, it doesn’t hurt to think ahead.  Once you gather these supplies they should last for years. Again, check in with your child’s teacher for recommendations.

Lunch supply basics:

  • A reusable lunch bag

  • Reusable lunch containers (bento boxes, sandwich wraps, snack containers, etc.)

  • A reusable water bottle

  • Small cloth placemats and napkins

  • Reusable cutlery

When school does start, it can be helpful to make lunches the night before, and your children can help!  Older children can begin making their own lunches each day.  

Conversations

Begin talking with your child about the upcoming school year.  Chances are they’re excited, but if it’s a new school or a new class, they may have some reservations.  Let them know what to expect and encourage them to ask questions.  Some possible talking points:

  • If it is a new school, feel free to take a drive by to show them or remind them what the building looks like.

  • What will drop-off and pick-up be like for your child?

  • Are there any changes in their class this year? You might discuss new teachers, new students, or anything else that will be different.

  • To the best of your ability, describe what their days will be like.

  • Ask your child what their hopes are for the year. This is especially helpful and important for children in elementary and above. They can include hopes and dreams not just about academics, but friendships, special classes, and whatever else they can think of.

Lastly, if there is any information you need from us before the start of the school year, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.  We are looking forward to seeing your children and starting off another great year!

Living Montessori in the Summer

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If you’re reading this, you’re either:

  1. Sending your child to a Montessori school and totally dedicated to the philosophy, or
  2. Very curious about whether Montessori might be a good fit for your family.

Either way, you can create a Montessori-style summer that will either continue the experience, or give you a chance to try it out.

Maria Montessori cared deeply about honoring human development.  From the materials she created to the environments they are placed in to the delivery of the model, great attention is paid to the specific developmental phase a child is in.  You can do the same, simply and with just a little forethought...

Keeping your child’s needs in mind

So what exactly did Montessori have to say about the different stages of development?  Here’s a very quick rundown:

Infants and toddlers: Children in the earliest years are making great strides in development of movement and spoken language.  Though they will seek some level of independence, they still need quite a bit of support and lots of nurturing.  Children of this age display a strong preference for order.

3-6 year olds: The sense of order continues in this stage.  Primary-aged children want to do things for themselves, often literally saying, “I can do it!”  We try to let them, and modify their environment to make this possible.  It is also a time of huge growth in language, sensory refinement, early reading, writing, and math.  Children tend to work beside their peers, but independently.

6-12 year olds: The strong sense of order tends to disappear around this time, and is replaced by an emphasis on justice and social development.  Children at this age care very much about friendships and spend much of their time figuring out how to resolve conflicts together.  They are inspired by storytelling, science, history, and geography.  They continue to make great strides in the core academic areas.  They want to think for themselves.

Adolescents: Montessori recognized that adolescents are trying to balance their need for independence from adults, while still requiring quite a bit of support from them.  Increasing their responsibilities and providing them with challenges helps them work through this time.  This is a great time to start teaching children the skills they will need to master when they are finally ready to set out on their own.

Consider the routine

Routine is helpful for most humans, important for children, and critical for young children.  While vacations and daily activities will certainly mix up any routine, it’s a good idea to establish one anyway.  Routines give children consistency, which makes them feel safe.  It reduces behavioral issues and gives children the freedom to explore their world and take safe risks.  Consider the following:

  • What does your child need to do each day upon waking?  Depending upon their age, what can you do to support their independence in this area?  A toddler may have a floor bed so that they may physically rise on their own, while a six-year-old might be responsible for getting dressed, brushing their teeth, and preparing their breakfast.
  • What can your children do during the day (especially on days when there are no specific plans)?  Is there a bookcase containing age-appropriate books?  Are toys, games, puzzles, and art supplies organized and accessible?  Do your children feel free to explore these things independently, and have the knowledge and sense of responsibility to clean up when they are done?
  • Do your children have independent access to snacks and water?  Allowing them to listen to their bodies and self-identify those needs is a precious gift.  
  • Depending upon age, might your children help prepare meals?
  • Is there a balance between active time and quiet time?  Between togetherness and independence?
  • Just as it’s important to have a morning wake-up routine, consider what type of routine you want to establish for bed-time.  Though this might vary a bit from the regular school year, it’s still helpful to keep it consistent.

Integrate academics

This is totally possible to do without evoking moans and groans.  First of all, most Montessori children delight in academics.  Secondly, it can be done in short, effective bursts.  Some ideas:

  • Read daily.  Read to them, have them read to you, to each other, to themselves.
  • Find math in everyday life and talk about it.  The kitchen, shopping, driving - the possibilities for real-world word problems are endless.
  • Spend 5 minutes a day on math facts.  Make it fun with sidewalk chalk, silly songs, jump roping, or dry erase markers on the living room window.
  • Explore!  Dig into science, history, and geography by visiting local museums, parks, and landmarks.  Encourage their curiosities and research more together.
  • Older children can journal their experiences.  This is especially effective with a fancy notebook and pencil.

“Going Out”

A hallmark of the Montessori elementary years is “going out”, or small groups of children organizing and executing a field trip to further their individual interests.  Are your kids into dinosaurs?  See if there are any nearby fossil sights or museum exhibits.  Do they love sea creatures?  Check out an aquarium or visit the beach to explore tide pools.  They key is to listen to your children and let their interests guide the trip.  

Embracing nature

People simply feel better when they spend time in nature.  Ideally, we should all get out there at least a little bit each day.  If you live in a place adjacent to a natural area - say a body of water or forest - then this should be easy.  But even in urban areas there are options.  Does your family have a favorite park?  Does your city have a botanical garden or arboretum?  Is it possible to drive a short distance to more natural areas?

Keep your child’s developmental phase in mind when planning outdoor experiences.  It can be easy to get excited about a hike only to find out little legs can’t make it as far as you thought.  Build in breaks, bring snacks, and take lots of pictures!

Making time for the arts

It’s fun, easy, and important to build art into your summer plans.  Children can both appreciate the art of others and create work of their own.

It’s likely that your local community has more art on display than you may realize.  Search for not only museums, but galleries, sculptures, and street art such as murals.  Older children can have fun making art scavenger hunts for younger siblings.  

Drawing might be inspired by art they see, their outdoor adventures, or even tiny plants and creatures in your own backyard.  It can also be fun to participate in a daily sketchbook challenge such as this one: https://tinkerlab.com/july-sketchbook-challenge/ .

Other art possibilities are endless.  For infants and toddlers, it can be as simple as giving them a paintbrush, cup of water, and a smooth rock warmed in the sun.  They can paint the water on it, watch it disappear as it dries, and repeat for as long as the activity holds their interest.  Older children may want to experiment with a wide variety of medium.  Think pastels, watercolor, clay, collage, or charcoal.  Let them experiment and find new ways to use the materials.

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas for blending Montessori with summer home life.  Let us know how it goes!

5 Fun and Easy Summer Ideas for Kids and Parents

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Summer is a great time to plan exciting trips or visit with family and friends.  Even with scheduled plans, we are often still left with lots of downtime.  While it can be a great thing for kids to feel boredom and create their own fun, it can be handy to have a few ideas in your back pocket for those days when everyone starts to go a little stir-crazy.  Check out these fun summer activities that can easily be done last-minute:

1. Visit a Museum

Even very young children will enjoy trips to your local museum.  While many will delight in spending a day at a museum specifically designed for children, kids also like going to art museums, science museums, aquariums, and many others.

Many local libraries now have passes to area museums.  If you have a library card, you may be able to pick up a pass the will give you and your family free or reduced admission, which is a nice perk for everyone.  Libraries are a great resource to figure out what museums might be best for your kids, too.

When you do head out, remember to consider your kids’ perspective during the day.  Some exhibits may be fascinating for you but boring to them, and vice versa.  Kids will need breaks and food.  Pack some snacks or check out a fun local lunch spot.

Presetting the kids is another great strategy.  Talk to them about what they will see, how they are expected to behave at a museum, and what the day will be like.  Let their interests help guide your trip, and enjoy the memorable experience.

2. Go for a Hike

Taking your kids hiking has so many benefits!  You get to spend quality time together, everyone gets some exercise, and the family gets to immerse themselves in nature.  There are so many options that are sure to find a trail that will appeal to even the most reluctant of hikers. Browse an online directory to decide what might be a good fit.  Check out these sites for more information:

https://www.hikingproject.com/

https://www.americantrails.org/resources/statetrails/

https://www.trails.com/

Before heading out, make sure everyone is dressed appropriately.  These needs will vary greatly depending on what part of the country you plan on hiking in and how challenging the trail is.  Consider wearing either sturdy sneakers or hiking boots; open-toes shoes can quickly lead to painful encounters with rocks, roots, or other obstacles.  Dressing in comfortable layers is also a good idea, as hiking (especially in the summer) can cause our bodies to heat up, but mountain summits or other open areas can be breezy and deceptively chilly.  

It’s important to think about pests as well.  Bugs will be joining you on your hike, and no matter how much your little ones may find them fascinating, certain insects are best kept at a distance.  Two standouts include mosquitoes and ticks, both of which can carry disease.  There are many options for prevention of bites, including wearing right clothing, to buying or making repellent sprays.  Find out what pests to be aware of in your area and consider your options for protection.

Lastly, be sure to make it fun!  Adults typically hike with a goal and approach the experience as a task to complete.  Children will likely want to stop frequently, both to explore every cool leaf and rock they see, but also because they will get tired.  Be prepared to take lots of breaks, and pack some fun snacks and water.  Remember to take some pictures to remember the day!

3. Make Recycled Art

Feeling creative but low on supplies?  Raid your own recycle bin for some inspiration!  Some possibilities:

  • Unique drawing paper - That old Amazon box or colorful envelope provides the perfect canvas for kids to unleash their drawing and coloring skills.  Use whatever you have around the house, including crayons, markers, or even sidewalk chalk.
  • Collage - Magazines or flyers are great for this.  Cut out shapes, images, letters, or whatever inspires you, then glue them onto another piece of paper to make a whole new image.  Bonus: young kids are getting some good fine motor practice!
  • Sculpture - The possibilities are endless.  Egg cartons can become caterpillars, plastic bottles can transform into vases, and cardboard tubes and boxes can be attached to one another to make animals.  Gather up some tape and markers and see what your imagination can create.

One really fun option is to pull your recycling bin into the middle of your kitchen floor and ask your child to use their imagination.  Children see the world in such an unfiltered way, and everyday objects can easily provoke their creativity.  

4. Pack a Picnic

Having a picnic is one of the simplest and relaxing ways to enjoy the warmer months.  Choose a spot (local parks or beaches are wonderful, but so is your own backyard.)  Have the kids help prepare and pack sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  Some ideas:

  • Finger Foods: Think grapes, olives, cheese, bread,  and carrot sticks.
  • Simple Salads: Whip up your favorite, whether it be macaroni, bean, potato, or veggie-based.
  • Quick Sandwiches: Peanut butter and jelly is an easy go-to, and so are cold cuts.  If you have adventurous kids, look up a recipe and try something that is new for everyone!  
  • Easy drink: Fill up some water bottles or back some juice boxes to keep everyone hydrated.

Remember to pack a blanket, napkins, and any plates, cups, or utensils you may need.  Bug spray and sunscreen might be helpful, too!

5. Check Out Your Library

Not only is your library a great source for museum passes, but libraries are a great place to take children for a variety of other reasons, too.  While each library is different, many offer:

  • Summer reading programs
  • Classes and activities for kids of all ages (for a small fee or free)
  • Special events for families
  • Art displays to view
  • Children’s and teen’s book sections
  • Storytime for little ones

Best of all, the library is a really nice place to spend a quiet few hours, enjoying some books together out of the heat of a summer day.

Enjoy your time together this summer!